Mexican Cooking Equipment

Learn about the unique equipment and utensils used in cooking Mexican food

Guacamole in molcajete

Jon Lovette / Photodisc / Getty Images

Cazuelas are large Mexican clay dishes that are ideal for simmering mole and other sauces because the clay heats the contents evenly, eliminating burnt spots. Cazuelas are shallow, usually 5 to 7 inches deep and rounded like a bowl. They often have handles for easier handling over an open fire. The outsides are sometimes painted with bright beautiful colors. The inside is glazed and the clay imparts a wonderful flavor to the dish. 

Barro or Olla: Mexican Pottery Pots

Barro literally means "mud" but generally means "clay," and olla means "pot." Ollas are large, deep clay pots perfect for simmering beans, stews and soups. The clay heats evenly and is perfect for all-day cooking over a direct flame. The clay can be fragile and sensitive to quick temperature changes. Cooking in the clay pots imparts an earthy flavor to the dish. 

Comal: Griddle

A comal is a large, round griddle usually made of clay, aluminum or cast iron, but the more modern ones usually have a non-stick finish. They are used to warm tortillas and roast chiles and vegetables. They can range in size from a large dinner plate to 2 feet in diameter. 

Metate y Mano: Hand Grinder

This is a large tool usually made of stone or lava rock. It consists of a large stone surface, slightly concave, sitting on three short legs. It is usually about the size of a large, rectangular platter. There is a large cylinder of stone that is rolled on the surface to grind or mix the items placed on it. Sometimes the legs are longer, allowing the user to sit in front of it.

Molcajete y Tejolote: Mortar and Pestle

A small wood, stone or clay bowl with an elongated cylinder of the same material that is rounded on each end. A small amount of spice or food is placed in the bowl and the end of the cylinder is used to smash the item against the sides of the bowl in a circular motion to pulverize it. 

Molinillo: Wooden Whisk or Stirrer

A cylinder of wood that is spun between the hands in a cup of hot chocolate to produce a foam on the top. They can be simple or highly decorated.

Tortillero: Tortilla Press

Though tortilleros were originally made from wood, they are also made of cast iron. It consists of two large round plates or blocks of wood on which you place a ball of masa, then presses together to form a tortilla. You may run across aluminum versions, but they tend to break.